Barn Swallow Nest

Barn Swallow

Swallow resting on a power line

Swallow on a fence

Swallows taking a time out


Hirundo rustica

Description: Main features: Small (15cm); wing long; tail streamers.

Male: Longer tail.

Duller and lacks tail streamers; upperparts dark brown; chestnut replaced with pinkish buff; breast band brown. Lacks elongated outer tail feathers.

Generally quiet. Described as twittering calls while in flight: twit twit. Each has its own song, but they may sing in chorus.

In flight:
Graceful swoops with regular wing beats.

Adult: Upperparts and breast band metallic blue; forehead, throat, upper breast chestnut; underpants white.

Barn Swallows eat insects, taking them during flight. They appear to have a preference for flies and mosquitoes (Diptera). To feast on swarming insects, they may join other birds like Swifts. Swallows actually chase after individual prey and perform aerial acrobatics to catch them. Swallows also hunt at lower levels than Swifts, particularly during wet weather.

Unlike Swifts, Swallows perch and also come to the ground to drink or gather nesting material. But they can also sip drinks of water on the wing.

Breeding: Barn Swallows breed in the north from America through Europe to China. Females appear to prefer males with long tails. They court with aerial chases, the pair often perching on a branch to preen each other. They may mate in flight! They lay 4 to 5 white brown-spotted eggs. Both parents incubate for 15-17 days. The other parent feeds the brooding parent, and both rest in the same nest at night. Hatchlings are born naked and helpless, fledging in 18-23 days. They may raise more than one brood in a good season, with their latest fledged juveniles helping out. When the young are able to fly, the parents may continue to feed them and do so on the wing!
Migration: In winter, Barn Swallows migrate southwards to South America, Africa, India and Southeast Asia. They travel in huge flocks and may cover up to 11,000km.  Barn Swallows are often seen roosting in large flocks perched on overhead wires or man-made structures.

Status and threats:  They are often considered a pest because of their untidy and messy nests near human habitation. However, they play an important role in controlling insect populations and can act as a natural form of pest control in cultivated areas.

Posted:03/29/2010 12:35 PM